Recently, while complimenting someone who had put up a picture of a bird on Facebook, I ran into a stranger who is apparently a friend of the person who did the original posting. What follows is an interesting primer about how
the anonymity of the virtual world isn’t an effective cloak at all for getting away with bs and about how preening and attempting to establish one’s virtuosity can backfire rather badly when one doesn’t quite know the subject. The exchanges reproduced below, embellished with explanatory notes from me occasionally, would be the best narrative form for this episode. So here goes:
The thread started with brief comments about terms used in photography and then got on to photography hardware, specifically digicams. After a few rather pedantic comments, the proceedings livened up when I mentioned, in response to some comments about analog and digital cameras that there is nothing quite analog about a conventional film camera. No analog circuits quite exist. (The verbatim response excerpts from the lady who was primarily engaged in the interchanges are preceded by the acronym SL, whereas those by me are preceded by RM).The italicized bits in between, in black, are my observations and remarks.
SL: SLR is the right term for the traditional 35mm cam.
(i said analog cause it is rather a familiar term than the SLR. When I
used to mention the word SLR to my customers, it used to freak them out
[sold cameras–was an authorized dealer for canon)
After I commented briefly on the various categories of cameras, their primary points of difference, conventional and digital cameras and the optical principles involved in SLR cameras, the action picked up from SL. Here are some vignettes verbatim.
SL: "Light does not shine on CCD/CMOS. To ease the language SLR is used to mean the film camera and DSLR is
used to mean digital format"
SL: "Nikon 5 or 6 will still be called a traditional camera even though
programming was installed.
A DSLR is basically a computer emmulating a camera"
SL: "ccd/cmos is a sensor that has color design. if ppl were more
knowledgeable, they would ask how the RGBs are arranged on the chip. it
picks up color information. to this day, to my knowledge no DSLR has come out in the market that can
totally capture film information–not even hassie"
SL: "some film hassies do have a digital back—these digital backs are
equally as expensive as the camera itself. had one"
Seeing the repeated attempts, increasingly desperate, to bandy about terms without at times any fundamental
understanding of the principles and technology involved (the internet makes it possible to access whole volumes of information about any subject, cherry pick what you like and reproduce them without either understanding the fundamentals or even worse realizing that some of the info one comes across is wrong and inaccurate) coupled with the frenetic attempts to pass herself off as a guru on the subject, leading to an increasing number of faux pas, I had to respond.)
RM: "I suggest you look up the detailed tech. involved in Digital Cams for
further details on such aspects instead of shooting from the hip. The
basic technology & principles don’t change from one major
manufacturer to another.
To correct some misconceptions briefly:
SLR stands for the Single
Lens Reflex principle, which is the whole optical system I alluded to
briefly earlier. Any conventional camera using this arrangement of
mirrors & prisms is referred to as a SLR camera. Prior to the SLRs,
cameras with viewfinders used the TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) principle
essentially incorporating two optical light paths. I remember gingerly
using a top-of-the-line model which my father had, as a kid. They were
good cameras but considerably bulkier and owing to parallax caused image
framing errors in certain situations.
Digital cameras which use the SLR optical system are known as DSLR
cameras. The use of digital circuits, dedicated firmware and custom
embedded software does not qualify a DSLR or any digital cam as a
‘computer’ much like similar embedded circuitry & systems in the
current generation of automobiles or even home appliances like
refrigerators and microwave ovens don’t make them ‘computers’ either.
The primary purpose of CCD or CMOS sensors is to convert light
signals viz., a very tiny part of the image into electronic signals. A
whole array of CMOS or CCD sensors thus captures the image area in its
entirety after which a whole host of built in hardware, firmware and
embedded software processes the electronic signals so received into a
composite digitized image (the entire lot commonly referred to as the
Image Processing Engine) making a whole host of adjustments &
corrections in the process. If no light is allowed to get through to the
CMOS or CCD sensors, you wouldn’t have any image in the first place in
any digicam whether it be a compact, prosumer or a DSLR.
Each CMOS sensor in the array has a no. of pixels and the
transistors for each pixel are located right next to the photodiodes.
Among a multitude of other functions the pixels with their transistors
incorporate RGB filtration & agglomeration naturally since CMOS /
CCD sensors essentially operate on the WYSIWYG principle and we don’t
live in a B&W world.
Given the completely different scientific principles, not to mention
technologies, between conventional film cameras & digicams,
hybridization is not possible. One can’t for example generate electronic
signals from an exposed conventional film frame or roll.
This isn’t meant to be a tutorial on digital image processing
fundamentals. However I couldn’t help getting into a certain degree of
details to explain absolute basics and correct a no. of misconceptions
that I happened to notice."
After an interjection by the person who had originally posted the pic, stating that the lady was indeed knowledgeable about the subject and not likely to shoot from the hip, the exchanges livened up further.
SL: "exactly….light n color do not shine on the chip–it detects
chip design does vary from company to company. layering of the pixels is
a big deal–i can go into it more detail with the appropriate audience n
wots this deal shooting from the hip? i am afraid i am not aware of the
term. i understand u meant it as a sarcasm. being an academic person i
like to know lil bit more just to satiate my curiosity
I am based in Washington DC. Was trained in NYC (my teen years
and undergrad)–teach at a local college and privately—my video
certifications are all from DC (an awarded cameraperson hahaha—the
shoot was scary–tell you later)
after my BA from NYC, was in kol for a while where i taught acting
photography aerobics french and english–all for fun
MBA/Info Sys from DC"
Since the person was virtually begging for a response from my end, one was indeed in order.
RM: " I am very sure of what I’ve mentioned before. As I said earlier, I am
not a photography buff but what I’ve mentioned earlier is the intrinsic
technology of digital cameras. Even discounting factors like my basic
background in technology and experience in related arenas for nearly 3
decades, there is considerable literature, including very detailed
technical literature on the subject and I would suggest that instead of
debating and coming up with bits & pieces which are laughable to
anyone who has a grounding in technology or an understanding of the
scientific basis & principles involved in this, one should invest
time in going through the underlying technology and the scientific
principles involved. But then again, if one doesn’t have the necessary
background or experience it may just end up as an exercise in grappling
with the incomprehensible."
RM: (specifically responding to SL) "Let me say this once again. It appears that even without a basic
knowledge of the technology or the principles involved you made a whole
series of comments which were way off the mark, used jargon &
technology terms quite inappropriately at times without any basic
understanding of what they truly signify or of the underlying
technological principles involved which, in charitable terms, is
shooting from the hip or more appropriately shooting yourself in the foot
if you so prefer. You continue to do it with every new comment you make
(‘ light & color do not shine on a chip’….. being the latest gem
in the series; I shall restrain myself suitably from several quips about
‘chips’ which come to mind) brutally exposing yourself to utter
ridicule in the eyes of all who understand the technology and the
Look friend, I have no desire to further engage in this ludicrous
discussion with you. I got into a certain amount of details on a lazy
Sunday about this while browsing personal e-mails & FB and thought
that I’ll try & explain as simply as possible, shorn of the complex
technicalities & jargon, the basics of a digicam to those who may be
interested in knowing.
Since you’ve chosen to bandy about your CV on FB discussion threads
(haven’t come across that before, must say), I gather that you have an
arts background among other things. May I suggest that you stick to
things that you apparently have some idea about like composing pictures,
camera settings, aerobics and the like. I just have the feeling that
the whole subject of optics, semiconductors, photovoltaic cells, CCD or
CMOS APS, image processing firmware and allied topics are totally
uncharted waters and a minefield where "DSLR computers riding hard on
‘chips’ brandishing ‘colour sensitive’ pixels amidst a forest of CCDs"
(phew!) might just blow up in your face at times. Let me assure you, all
this stuff can be pretty complex to the uninitiated. The choice is
entirely yours though, whether to pursue this field of knowledge
aggressively in the future. As they say, it is a free country.
On the lighter side, since the comments were made in a public forum
like FB, I might just share the best of the little gems that you chose
to strew around with some of my friends during one of my forthcoming
social interaction sessions. I can quite imagine how it will greatly
bump up the amusement quotient with those who work in related areas
including a senior executive with ABC, some of whose cameras you once
apparently sold or another similar guy who happens to oversee XYZ’s CS
across AP. Rest assured I shall do so maintaining privacy &
confidentiality so that no one who may be in splits as a result even
gets to ask "SL who?"
The exchanges essentially ended there. SL later reverted with some out-of-context comments about how she, despite being resident in Washington DC presently, isn’t like other NRIs (Non Resident Indians) who according to her are like apes without tails hanging from trees. She, on the other hand, is apparently steeped in the best traditions of Kolkata and India (whatever that might mean; can’t quite reproduce those comments, like the others above, verbatim, since they were in the vernacular).
Aside from the obvious humour of the exchanges, they do trigger a series of reflections for all of us to ponder about. Some of these are:
- Using the anonymity of the net, folks can grossly distort just about everything about themselves, starting from their identity, nationality, background and present location. Being the largest social networking site by far, Facebook must be having its fair share of such folks who are crawling about in virtual space, latching on to various other ‘net friends’ including some like themselves, worming their way into open groups, fan sites and the like. I wonder how many of them are there with the intent to hack into or steal ids and other information.
- Facebook has rather cute categorizations like ‘Friend of a friend’. Unless one is quite sure about one’s ‘friends’ (which, in other words, means guys you really happen to know rather than folks you happened to meet on the net and added on to your list), ‘friends of friends’ would seldom, if ever, translate into a friend.
- Under the relative cloak of anonymity, which the net and such social networking sites provide, people feel emboldened to say stuff which they wouldn’t quite do in real life or in face-to-face situations with known people. The mistake they often make is assuming that utterly casual, phony or trash talk is transient in nature and will get forgotten or wiped out during the next few hours as new postings & comments keep getting injected. They are also lulled possibly into a false sense of security by the fact that most such sites provide Edit / Delete facilities apparently allowing people to take off what they might once have said. Unfortunately, given the multiple modes of access and communications, not to speak of banks of servers and archives, a complete wipeout is rarely if ever possible. Hence the need to be careful, considered and circumspect in all that you say and do in the virtual world since indiscretions and reckless utterances can indeed come back to haunt one or boomerang on one when least expected.
Bertrand Russell once said, “A stupid person’s report of what a clever person says is never accurate
because he or she unconsciously translates what he or she hears into something he or she can
understand.” Substitute pretentious or bogus in place of stupid and the saying still remains pretty much relevant, though ‘unconsciously’ may need to be replaced by ‘consciously’ on occasions.
As far as I am concerned, it’s back to the woodwork for ‘SL’. As a by-product of this piece, I have embellished it with a few diagrams and images for all those who may be interested in some of the basic principles and technologies used in cameras, specially digicams, after they have soaked up the humour first.
Postscript: I saw a message subsequently, from the person whose original post had led to this highly fascinating interchange that he had deleted the entire thread. This was followed by a couple of messages from ‘SL’, addressed to this person, one of which stated, "I took the conversation as fun. while it was not really mentally sexy
par se, I loved the onli9 heat. i was LMAO." The next one waxed lyrical, literally. It stated, "do not ever regret anything in life. herez my take on this: Edith
Piaff’s most famous song " Non Je ne regrette rien” I regret nothing.
you will find its translation in English should you not know french. It
is my most fav song in the world, I am listening to it since i was 15."
My final response to the person whose original posting had led to this series of interchanges was somewhat different though. It stated:
"Surprised that you should be getting squeamish about this in the first
place. Since you weren’t part of it except for a brief interjection and
since on the net and on social networking sites, normal algebraic rules
don’t quite hold (i.e.x equals y equals z doesn’t quite translate into x
equals z) for you and all others privy to it, it was an exchange
between two strangers, somewhat topical, during the course of which
someone, handed out a long rope, inextricably hung herself. I don’t
recall any crudities or vulgarities being used at all during the
Far more irrelevant and possibly offensive were the remarks made
subsequently about ‘NRI’ apes, residing on the East Coast specifically
and possibly in N. America in general. Such trashy stuff doesn’t even
merit a response and anyway, as far as I am concerned, its back to the
woodwork for the person making it.
Since the initial post was by you, you are perfectly within your
rights to use the edit / delete options on the discussion thread as you
may choose to. Given the fact that most such interventions, for me and
some others, are often through blackberries, smartphones & emails,
all that the edit /delete achieves is to remove it from the site
directly but not from multiple other devices or servers. Be that as it
may, my neurological memory cells will retain the best vignettes for
awhile yet and I must say that the amusement quotient for me, specially
on a Sunday afternoon, was indeed of a high order. As I mentioned, I do
plan to share that amusement selectively."